Sunday, January 25, 2009
In her new book: Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt (2007), Nina Burleigh describes the challenges faced by the artist Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825), assigned by Napoleon to be the first to draw the wonders of Egypt.
Denon “…tripped on fresh corpses and mummies and slipped in centuries of bat guano, in rooms so dark they couldn’t see their own hands. Working by torchlight was dangerous in itself, since the long-enclosed areas were highly flammable, packed with wood, ancient paint, and mummy tar. They most feared not ancient spirits but stumbling into unseen holes, and the ever-present fluttering chauve-souris (bats), which swooped around their heads by the hundreds.”